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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Oldest? Biggest? Foxiest?

What book is big enough to fill this enormous book cradle? (constructed by Karen Schoenwaldt, in the foreground)

What photograph is Patrick Rodgers planning to hang on the wall?

What is that green thing in the back of this case, anyway?

You can find the answers to all these questions, and more, in our Superlative Showcase, a one-week-only "flash exhibition" of the biggest, the smallest, the oldest, the newest, the dirtiest, and many other "ests" that our collection has to offer. The Showcase premiers at the Members Appreciation Night on Tuesday (April 3) and will only stay open through Sunday, April 8, so hurry on down to see it while it's here!

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Rights of Woman

March is Women's History Month and this week I thought I'd highlight a letter from our Rush collection that deals with Mary Wollstonecraft's famous 1792 book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (Full text of Vindication can be found at Project Gutenberg)

In this ca. 1793 letter, Annis Boudinot Stockton, herself a published poet and author, is writing to her daughter, Julia Stockton Rush (wife of Benjamin Rush). She offers a detailed, and specifically American, response to the thought-provoking text.

Annis Boudinot Stockton., autograph letter signed to Julia Stockton Rush. 22 March [1793?] Rush I:05:08

I have been engaged these two days with reading the rights of women, which I never could procure before, tho it has been much longer in the neighborhood. I have been musing upon the subject over my solitary fire till I took up the resolution to give you my sentiments upon it tho I suppose it is an old thing with you--I wonder you never sent me your critique.

I am much pleased with her strength of reasoning, and her sentiment in general__but think that she like
many other great geniuses establish an Hypothesis and lay such weight upon it as to cause the superstructure to destroy the foundation. and I am sorry to find a woman capable to write such structures should complement Rousseau's nonsense so much as to make his ideas of women the criterion of the rank they hold in society. I think we need go no farther than his Confessions, to discover that he had some defect in his brain, or that he was a refined idiot, rather than an enlightened philosopher.

have always contended that the education of women was not made a matter of that importance, which it ought to have been, but we see that error daily correcting--and in this Country, the Empire of Reason is not monopolized by men, there is great pains taken to improve our sex, and store their minds with that knowledge best adapted to make them useful in the situation that their Creator has placed them--and we do not often see those efforts opposed by the other sex, but rather disposed to assist them by every means in their power, and men of sense generally prefer such women as Companions thro life.

The state of society may be different in Europe from what it is here in America--but from the observation I have been able
to make in my own Country, I do not think any of the slavish obedience exists that she talks so much of.__I think the women have their equal right of every thing, Latin and Greek excepted...

Stockton goes on for two more pages, discussing Wollstonecraft, reiterating her own belief that "there is no sex in the soul," but pointing out that "we are all beings dependent on one another, and therefore must often expect the inconveniences that must necessarily arise form the weakness of human nature, and the imperfection of some of those with whom we are connected." She eventually concludes "to sum up my poor judgment upon this wonderful book, I do really think a great deal of instruction may be gathered from it and I am sure that noone can read it, but they may find something or other, that will correct their conduct and enlarge their ideas."

If your interest is piqued, you can come see the letter for yourself, by making an appointment in the reading room. There is also an article entitled " A Late Night Vindication: Annis Boudinot Stockton's Reading of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" by Caroline Wigginton, published in Legacy Vol. 25, No. 2, which goes into this letter in much greater depth and with much more exploration of gender theory.

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Irish Writers

We never need an excuse to talk about Irish authors--James Joyce and Bram Stoker are year-round staples of the Rosenbach diet-- but with St. Patrick's Day approaching I thought I'd highlight a few other famous Irishmen in our collection. Many thanks to our librarian Elizabeth Fuller for letting me crib from the script from her Irish Writers hands-on-tour.

Jonathan Swift

Satirist Swift is best known for Gulliver's Travels, published in 1726 and seen below in a first edition. This is the book that gave us the words lilliputian and yahoos, among other cultural tropes. Our collection also includes a few other Swiftian works, including Tale of A Tub, and Battle of the Books.

[Jonathan Swift], Travels into several remote nations of the Lemuel Gulliver. EL2 .S977tr

Oliver Goldsmith

This 18th-century author was a real literary jack of all trades: executing translations, writing children's books, general articles, poetry, plays and novels. He's best known for his play She Stoops to Conquer, his novel The Vicar of Wakefield, and his poem The Deserted Village (shown below). His works were very popular in the 19th century and we even have the copper printing plates for an edition of his poems printed in 1819

Printing plate for The Poems of Oliver Goldsmith,1819,.2005.0250.001.001

Oscar Wilde

Wilde is a man who needs no introduction and as he himself said, "biography lends to death a new terror." However I can't resist one of my favorite fun facts--Florence Balcombe courted Oscar Wilde, but eventually chose to marry another Irishman--Bram Stoker! Anyway, on the theme of love (and Rosenbach), here is a manuscript sonnet by Wilde on the sale of Keats's love letters.

Oscar Wilde. Sonnet : On the sale by auction of Keats' love letters. 1 March 1885. EL3 f.W672 MS1

William Butler Yeats

We don't have much from this towering figure of 20th-century literature , but we do have two manuscripts, including this one entitled "The Stolen Child." By the way, Yeats was the first Irish author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1923)--this has sometimes been a useful bit of trivia for the Quizzo at Bloomsday 101.

W. B. Yeats, The Stolen Child. EMs 1280/4

So enjoy St. Patrick's Day and curl up with your favorite Irish writer. If you'd like something a bit more contemporary, Frank Delaney, the guest of honor at this year's Rosenbacchanal is coming out with a new short story on St Patrick's Day. His earlier short story The Druid is being offered for free right now on Amazon and the new one will post tomorrow. Whatever you pick, have a wonderful weekend!

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Friday, March 09, 2012

Great Gratz

This past weekend we celebrated the Gratz family in style with a recognition of Joseph Gratz by the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, of which he was a member, and a celebration of Rebecca Gratz's 241st birthday (but who's counting). For those of you who were unable to attend the festive event, I thought I'd share a few pictures.

Here is our curator and director of collections Judy Guston with the First Troop members and our portraits of Rebecca and Joseph Gratz. It was through Judy's hard work and dedication that we were able to acquire these lovely Gratz portraits in 2010 as well as the recent donation of Maria Gratz's portrait which was profiled last week in the Inquirer.

Here we have Susan Sklaroff, author of the blog Rebecca Gratz & 19th-Century America and Rosenbach docent extraordinaire! This picture also lets you see the true height of the soldiers' plumes. Apparently they were taller than the chandelier in the parlor, so the soldiers had to carefully keep to the perimeter of the room to avoid knocking into it.

This image gives you a nice view of the reverse of the First Troop's early-19th-century uniforms.

And finally, here is Rebecca's birthday cake.

For anyone who would like to delve further into the Gratzes and their contemporaries, Judy will be giving a hands-on tour this Sunday at 3 PM "From Gratz to Rosenbach: A Collection of Early America Judaica;" this tour will also be offered on Friday March 23 at 3 PM.

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Friday, March 02, 2012

Rosenbach Company Records

One of the many jobs our collection staff handles is answering research questions from folks outside the institution. Sometimes the questions can be downright unusual--our librarian remembers fielding a call from someone asking if we had newly discovered photos of Area 51 (apparently a news site mixed up a couple of links). But oddities aside, one of the most common questions we get is from people trying to track down information about objects that were purchased or sold through the Rosenbach Company. Here's a quick behind-the-scenes peek at some of the kinds of records we have from the Rosenbach Company that we can use to answer these questions.

Stock Cards

Stock cards (perhaps unsurprisingly) describe the books and manuscripts the Company had in its stock. Each represents a particular book or manuscript and the cards are organized by author or by subject. Individual cards vary, but they can include a description (often cut and paste from a Rosenbach Company sales catalog, as seen here) , stock numbers, provenance and/or sale information, and information about price. The price information is encoded using the ten letter word HOVERZACKS to represent the 10 numerals. The fine and decorative arts side of the business doesn't have stock cards, only stock books, which are obviously trickier to use because they aren't sortable in the way cards are. You can see the decorative arts stock book in the Inquiring Minds exhibition.

Sales Books

The Rosenbach Company sales books list all the purchases that customers made from the store: art and antiques, books and manuscripts, as well as sales from the frame shop and services the Company provided. The books run chronologically; there are 29 books for the fifty years. Frame numbers and delivery numbers turn up here, as well as information about the staff members who made the sale.

Accounts Receivable

Any person who made a purchase at the Rosenbach Company on credit had an accounts receivable card which listed dates and amounts of debits (purchases) and credits (payments). This card is one of many from Mrs. George D. Widener which are currently on display in Titanic: The Rise of Rosenbach.

Payment Vouchers

On the flip side from account receivable are payment vouchers, which record payments the Rosenbach Company made to its suppliers. These vouchers sometimes include invoices or receipts from book dealers, auction house, or other creditors.

There are many other types of materials that tell us about the workings of the Rosenbach Company, from sales catalogs to collation files to voucher registers, but hopefully this at least gives a glimpse into the way we tackle this research.

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog